Britten, Martin, Beethoven
October 2, 2011
Benjamin Britten exploded onto the British musical scene in the 1930s with a series of stunning youthful masterpieces that proclaimed the appearance of a modern master. Among them is the bewitching Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, written to showcase the virtuosity of London’s leading string orchestra of the day. The composer also put his own extraordinary compositional virtuosity on display with a young man’s captivating insouciance and panache. Starting with Bridge’s sentimental, turn-of-the-century theme, the Variations run through a dizzying gamut of moods, forms, and national styles. At one moment the work sounds English, suddenly it’s French, then Italian, then German, then... well, it’s hard to say.
Frank Martin’s Six Monologues from “Jedermann” is a work of deep religious conviction. The monologues, drawn from the famous play “Everyman” by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, trace the deeply moving stages in the emotional and spiritual journey of a wealthy and arrogant man who, learning that he is soon to die, resists with every fiber in his being until, gradually, he learns true wisdom in acceptance. This sublime work, a true masterpiece by Switzerland’s greatest composer, is still insufficiently known by music lovers. Joining Discovery Ensemble will be baritone Christòpheren Nomura, one of America’s most compelling recitalists, who will bring to the performance the urgency and personal communicative power that this unique work demands.
And, returning to earth after the mystical, transfigured close of the Martin Monologues, the concert closes with Beethoven’s eternally youthful Seventh Symphony. This dancing, athletic, overwhelmingly joyous work continues, even after two centuries, to be the most popular of all the Beethoven symphonies.